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A letter from Ingrid Reneau Walls serving in Ghana
december 2014 - Dancing to african rhythms
Dance, then, wherever you may be. I am the Lord of the dance, said he. And I’ll lead on to wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you on in the dance said he.
—From “Lord of the Dance” by Sydney Carter
A letter from Dustin Ellington serving in Zambia
december 2014 - scholarships help train pastors
Dear Friends and Partners,
Greetings from Zambia. Sherri and I are so grateful for the individuals and congregations that support our mission service in Zambia. It is quite encouraging to have people behind us. I am writing now in order to share about a possible scholarship for a Presbyterian student at Justo Mwale Theological University College, where I teach and train pastors for ministry.Continue reading
A letter from Tracey King-Ortega serving in Nicaragua
december 2014 - new insight into partnership
At the end of October I participated in an important gathering in Honduras. Joined by leadership from Presbyterian World Mission and several U.S. presbyteries already committed to mission with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras, we spent five days with members of our partner church with the lofty objective of “discerning the mind of Christ.” We were there to listen to and share with our sisters and brothers in Honduras as well as our mission workers serving there to build a common vision that could undergird our future work together in Honduras. We spent time studying scripture, sharing our dreams, and identifying our common values, all while visiting different parts of the country to see where and how the Honduran church is growing. This helped us to capture a common vision for our work together and begin planning next steps.Continue reading
A letter from Kate Taber serving in Israel-Palestine
december 2014 - child military detentions
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem… He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:4a, 5-7).
Holiday greetings from Bethlehem!Continue reading
A letter from Jed and Jenny Koball serving in Peru
december 2014 - we can affect the climate crisis
Every morning before the sun rises Gregorio gets out of bed and goes to his stable to collect 50 pounds of fresh cow manure. After gathering the manure he mixes it with 120 liters of water and pours the ripe concoction into his newly constructed bio-digester buried in his backyard. The bio-digester (a simple technology that is reminiscent of a giant inner tube) allows for the mixture to be converted into methane gas that then flows through plastic tubing and connects to a one-burner stove in his kitchen (as opposed to escaping into the air). Shortly after the sun rises Gregorio´s wife, Irma, lights the stove and cooks breakfast over a blue flame. “It may be a small thing,” says Gregorio, “but it is part of our contribution to stopping global warming.”Continue reading
A letter from Carlos Cardenas Martinez in Nicaragua
Otoño 2014 - UN MINISTERIO CRISTIANO
PROTECCION DE MIGRANTES EN NICARAGUA ...UN MINISTERIO CRISTIANO QUE TRABAJA CASI DESCALZO.
"Porque tuve hambre, y me disteis de comer; tuve sed, y me disteis de beber; fui forastero, y me recogisteis; estuve desnudo, y me cubristeis; enfermo y me visitasteis; en la carcel, y vinisteis a mi" - Mateo 25: 35,36
Hermanas y hermanos!
Me place saludarles nuevamente mediante esta carta al mismo tiempo que comparto con Uds impresiones sobre asuntos que para nuestros socios desde algún tiempo atrás vienen ocupando los primeros sitios en la escala de prioridades, me refiero al tema de los migrantes en la región de Centroamerica.
En las corporaciones mediáticas del mundo el tema de la Crisis de los y Niñas Migrantes viajando solos hacia las fronteras del Norte en Mexico y los Estados Unidos mientras arriesgan sus vidas en la peligrosa travesía se mantuvo por mucho tiempo. La Alianza de Acción Conjunta de las Iglesias o ACTAlliance y sus foros de país implementan un proyecto de respuesta a esta emergencia con el propósito de aliviar la situación de centenares de niños y niñas bajo riesgo quienes terminan sufriendo el rechazo y la deportación hacia sus países en el Sur.Continue reading
A letter from Carlos Cardenas Martinez in Nicaragua
Fall 2014 - A Compassion Ministry
PROTECTION FOR MIGRANTS IN NICARAGUA . . . A COMPASSION MINISTRY WORKING ALMOST BAREFOOT
For I was in need of food, and you gave it to me: I was in need of drink, and you gave it to me: I was wandering, and you took me in;I had no clothing, and you gave it to me: when I was ill, or in prison, you came to me (Matthew 25:35, 36).
Beloved sisters and brothers! Worshipful greetings to all of you!
I am pleased to greet you again through this letter at the same time that I share with you impressions on pressing issues that have been consuming much of our partner CEPAD's energy for some time now. I am referring to the issue of migrants and displaced persons in the Central American region.
For a while now media around the world have raised the issue of the crisis of migrant children traveling unaccompanied to the U.S./Mexico border and risking their lives in this dangerous crossing. The Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance and its country forums are implementing an emergency response aimed to alleviate the situation of hundreds of boys and girls at risk who suffer rejection and deportation from the North to their countries in the South.Continue reading
A letter from Leslie Vogel serving in Guatemala
Fall 2014 - One Week Can Change You
Dear friends, colleagues, and companions in God’s mission,
The tremendous gift, for me, about working with CEDEPCA is the focus throughout all of its four programs on Education that Transforms. (Romans 12:2—Be not transformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.)
“One week is not enough time to change Guatemala, but a week is enough time for Guatemala to change you.” This phrase has become the slogan for CEDEPCA’s Intercultural Encounters (IE) program, with which I work in my primary assignment as a facilitator with visiting groups. People of all ages and backgrounds come with good hearts, lots of good will, and a desire to “help” in some way; they want to fix something, paint something, dig up or plant something, share Christ with someone. They want to leave Guatemala better, in some way, than when they arrived.Continue reading
A letter from Suzette Goss-Geffrard in Haiti
November 2014 - What’s in a Gift?
Recently a sister, Hester, from Community Presbyterian Church in Deerfield, Florida, wrote me about wanting to give a gift of sewing machines. She wanted to know if this would be an appropriate gift to share. I wrote her about an organization that one of our partners has been working with called Organization de la Defense des Droits des Sourds-Muets (ODDSM), which translates to Organization for the Defense of the Rights for the Deaf.
ODDSM was the brainchild of Mrs. Jonka Guerda, whose determination to succeed in life despite having an amputation spilled over into her desire to help others overcome physical challenges. She saw that once deaf children reach their majority, there were no opportunities for them to learn job skills or find employment. They were frequently unable to even access the social services that are provided by the state. She began by teaching young deaf women needle skills to produce items to sell to create a livelihood. Later she sought training in the neighboring Dominican Republic on how to make cleaning products. The program now includes a few young males who are deaf. They have now created a company in which these young people make, package and market their own products. It has been wonderful to buy all of my dishwashing soap and disinfectant products from these enterprising young people. These young people want to be integrated into the larger workforce without regard for their physical “challenges.”Continue reading
A letter from Amy Davisson Galetzka serving in Thailand
Fall 2014 - Catching Up
Dear Friends and Family,
In my opinion this year has already been overly full. And we are not quite three-quarters of the way through. I understand that all of these events had good results. However, the process of getting through them, of waiting, communicating, and trying not to be anxious about the future was not easy. Some of the events to which I am referring:
• A new job for my husband after a few months of wondering where or what he might be doing. I felt confident that he would be an amazing part of any group and it was a sure thing that he would be asked to join, but the waiting and wondering about the future and wanting him to have something to do that he loved was a test of my patience.
• Wondering if my mom would have a clear report on her next CT scans to see if her lung cancer had returned.
• I have to fight against being overly worried after Nadia’s illness.
• Major transitions in work that seem to be constant, lengthy and complicated.
As I am searching for encouragement in God’s Word, these verses stand out as something to hold on to:
Transition: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13.
A letter from Brenda Harcourt serving in Kenya
December 2014 - Training Bearing Fruit
I love the Advent season and the wonderful feelings and memories that come with it. Churches begin marking time till Christmas and we seem to change as we prepare for the season…
For me here in Kenya, Advent is usually marked by my trekking up to Imenti presbyteries in the Mt. Kenya area to conduct training. This year we conducted a pastor/spouse retreat that was incredible. The pastors and their spouses get very little time together, so when they are able to get together for a week or even a few days everyone is excited. This year was extra special. The Imenti presbyteries are in partnership with Blackhawk Presbytery in the U.S.A. and over the years Blackhawk was able to raise money for training. Imenti decided to invest the money and try to help fund the training each year from the interest they get. Imenti has been saving and was finally able to finance 70 percent of the total cost of the retreat for the pastors/spouses. It was exciting to see the sense of accomplishment as they withdrew the money and paid for the costs for every pastor and spouse from their three presbyteries to come together for five days. It is extremely exciting to me to have my years of trying to help them see that they didn’t need to totally rely on international donations but could do some of it themselves came to fruition in this event. How exciting to see my leadership training bearing fruit. We laughed together and we cried together. We worshipped together and we played together. Blackhawk sent a clergy/spouse couple to help with the training, and they were received with open arms by the Kenyan pastors and spouses.Continue reading
A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
Late Fall 2014 - In the Footsteps...
Autumn in Prague brought beautiful and sunny days, with the nights crisp and cool. During October and November, however, I visited the U.S. for my annual Interpretation Assignment. Since learning and remembering Czech is such a challenge, I have made arrangements with World Mission to come back to the U.S. for 2 months each year instead of the customary 6 months following each 3-year term. I was able to visit some new congregations and presbyteries as well as current supporting congregations. It was so good to share with everyone about life and ministry here in the Czech Republic over the past year as well as hear about your various and diverse ministries.
Here in the Czech Republic, one of the highlights of this year was preparing and leading the travel/study seminar “In the Footsteps of Jan Hus and Martin Luther,” which was held April 28 to May 6. I wrote about it in my Spring newsletter. I know you were all praying for us, because the Seminar was great. Your prayers worked!
Although it would be tempting to tell you all about the seminar in great detail, I’ll just hit a few of the highlights from my perspective. One of the best parts of the Seminar was the hospitality and welcome of the host church, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB). There were numerous opportunities for the participants to meet and interact with people from the Central Church Office, the Synodal Council, the Protestant Theological Faculty, and various congregations. Trips outside Prague to Telč, Tábor, and Velka Lhota enabled the participants to meet and interact with people from several congregations as well as visiting and learning about historic sites in the Czech Republic.Continue reading
A letter from Debbie Blane in the U.S., awaiting return to South Sudan
December 2014 - Egyptian, Sudanese Christmases
When I lived in Sudan for the last quarter of 2009 and all of the year 2010, there were a fair number of Egyptian Orthodox families in the country. The Orthodox faith celebrates Christmas on the Epiphany that is observed by the Western church, on January 6. I was in Khartoum (Sudan) for Christmas in 2009 and had invited myself to the home of a colleague and his family on December 25. This was a learning experience for me since I had not realized at that point that because they were Egyptian, even though they were Presbyterian, they still observed Christmas in January. While they did have a tree up already and gifts were in abundance that they were giving to a local charity, it was very clear that this was not their Christmas as it was mine. They acknowledged this and made me feel as welcome as possible.
In 2010 I decided to leave Khartoum to be sure I had a Western Christmas, and I spent the 25th of December in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a mission co-worker friend. In turn we went to the home of another Presbyterian mission co-worker couple where many Americans, and some British, friends gathered for a traditional American/British Christmas.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
December 2014 - Walking Together
Advent Greetings from Rwanda,
The incarnation—God with us–is such an amazing concept. It stretches the imagination to think about the creator of the universe taking on the form of one of his creatures and coming to live among them, as one of them, to share in their joys and pains, to live with them in their frustrations and fears. And yet that is just what God did. That is the core of what we celebrate at Christmas—that God is with us in all the circumstances of life.
Maybe equally amazing is that God invites us to be a part of his incarnation by joining him in that opportunity of being with those he calls us to serve—to be a part of his ministry of presence. That is what I have the privilege of participating in every day that I am here in Rwanda—being with our Rwandese brothers and sisters in Christ. About once a month I get to do this by traveling with my students to their home parishes and preaching in the congregations that sent them for theological training. I have the opportunity to be with their pastors and to be part of their ministries, if only for a day. The rest of the month I am with my students as they lead daily worship and preach in English for the first time. I am here to pray with them for the hurts of their lives and the struggles of their families’ lives. The longer I am here, the more often I am invited into their lives, the more I am able to share with them, to pray with them, to share victories in studies and in answers to prayer.Continue reading
A letter from Karla Koll serving in Costa Rica
December 2014 - Wrapping Up the Year
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Greetings from Costa Rica in this Advent season.
Yes, Advent has begun. There is a part of me that wishes Advent would come when the activities of the old year have come to an end so there would be more time to enjoy this season. And yet this is the way God comes to us, the new breaking in amidst the old. The new liturgical year starts before the calendar year has come to an end. While the world focuses on year-end reports, God is doing something new. This Advent, may we prepare for our part in what God is doing.
Now that December is here, the rains have pretty much stopped in Costa Rica. We are enjoying cooler temperatures, including chilly mornings. Increased winds mark the change of seasons. I am glad to report that the drought in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America eased during the last couple of months, with rainfall close to normal levels. On our farm the cattle are gaining back the weight they lost. Several calves have been born in recent weeks. My husband, Javier, is currently in Nicaragua working on the irrigation system on our farm.Continue reading
A letter from Stephen and Brenda Stelle serving in Ethiopia
December 2014 - “Teacher, one question?”
Christmas Greetings from Dembi Dollo!
Steve can tell you when it’s going to happen. He’s as predictable as the 6:30 breakfast bell at BESS. Each time Steve finishes a topic in his Genesis class, Efrem Dibissa’s hand flies into the air. “Teacher, one question?” he says. Most often it is a deep and insightful question. Like, “Teacher, if Abraham committed sins, how can he be a man of faith?” or “Teacher, how can Melchizedek be without mother or father?”
Efrem, who is taking both the Genesis and the Psalms courses from Steve this semester, is a Diploma Three student who has been a pastor for 10 years. Most recently he is working for the Dalesede Presbytery of the Western Wolega Synod. In his hometown of Alemteferi, which is approximately 50 miles from the Gidada Theological College, his family, wife and four children, ranging from 16 years to his 8-month-old baby daughter, remain while he upgrades his education. They somehow manage to live on one-half of his normal salary while he does his studies.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Hare serving in Haiti/Dominican Republic
November 2014 - Yard Garden Program
“She gave from her heart. Now we need to give back from our hearts.” That was the response of Viljean Louis to a group of about 60 Haitian farmers after Becca Montgomery, an elder from First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, Ala., had provided them a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Together with Kristie Taylor and Liz Hubbard, Becca had spent three intense days with the folks from Bayonnais. The three tested their own limits and some of their assumptions about what mission work really is. The culmination of the group’s visit was a joyful gathering organized by Viljean and other leaders on Wednesday, November 12, to celebrate the organization’s yearlong work with the MPP-FONDAMA Yard Garden Program
I have been working with the yard garden program of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) since being sent to serve with MPP by PC(USA) World Mission in 2004. In 2012 I was offered the opportunity to extend what we had learned in MPP to other groups of organized farmers. The Bayonnais folk represent the fifth and latest organization with whom we have begun training and providing follow-up through home visits.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Smith-Mather serving in South Sudan
November 2014 - Fighting Fears
Many young girls in South Sudan live with the fear that they will never have an opportunity to go to school. Many students currently enrolled fear they will be taken out of school too early. Let’s help them fight these fears.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s partnership with the church in Sudan spans over 100 years. Today we remain in close relationship with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) as well as other denominations in the Sudans. The PCOSS leadership, even in the midst of violent conflict in their country, remains committed to increasing and improving educational opportunities for young people in South Sudan (a country in which more than half of the population is under the age of 18). The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan requests Presbyterian churches in the United States to join their efforts.
The South Sudan Education and Peacebuilding Project (SSEPP), launched at the PC(USA) General Assembly in June 2014, offers a resounding YES to that request. We committed to a five-year, $3.4 million, project to strengthen educational systems and opportunities in South Sudan. The vision and implementation of this project comes from the PC(USA)’s global partners in South Sudan: PCOSS, Across, Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC), and RECONCILE International. The peacebuilding component of the project underscores the need for stability and safety in order for schools to thrive.Continue reading
A letter from Christi Boyd serving in Congo
Winter 2014 - Child Migration, Madagascar
Dear mission supporters, family and friends,
Through the lens of television cameras, child migrants have arrived at the doorsteps of American households. For many, the recent influx of young, unaccompanied children from Central American countries has been bewildering. A border wall was to keep at a distance the desperate realities that bring parents to the heartbreaking decision to part with their children.
Poverty and violence can be both cause and consequence of child migration, child labor and child trafficking, worldwide. Child migrants became also a focus group for me this year. My last newsletter highlighted the ordeal of five young teens in Rwanda who had started drifting due to economic strains in their family. Thank God, they have reunited with their relatives and continue school now. It goes without saying, however, that many child migrants don't find their way home before their young lives take a turn for the worse.
Akany Avoko Faravohitra is a halfway house in Madagascar that primarily serves underage Malagasy migrant girls who have had a run-in with the law and are placed in the residential care facility by order of the juvenile court. Called after the neighborhood where it is located in the capital city of Antananarivo, it is a longstanding ecumenical ministry of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Madagascar (FFPM), and as such it is embraced by our PC(USA) partner, the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM). The Center has state authorization and operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Population. Faravohitra director and FJKM pastor Rev. Herimalala Rakotovao guided me during my stopover at the Center.Continue reading
A letter from Marta Bennett serving in Kenya
November 13, 2014 - The Best & Worst of Times
Is it Charles Dickens or Solomon who most aptly described this past year of our lives here in Nairobi? It has in many ways been the best of times and also some of the worst of times; but then again, for everything there is a season…
The year 2014 has once again been stretching, one in which I have held onto Lamentations 3:22-23, in which the prophet declares, Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is your faithfulness. God’s mercies are new every morning, no matter what the circumstances seem to be. He is there, and he walks with us, just as he has promised.
Some of the best of times this past year for me and my family have been:
Students: As always, the joy and the purpose of both administration and teaching at the university are the growth in the minds, hearts and lives of students. We wrestle together with the content and what that content means for their wide variety of situations and roles. Besides teaching courses such as Biblical and Theological Paradigm for Transformational Leadership (Ph.D. level), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation Processes (Ph.D. and M.A.), Personal Leadership Development (M.A.) and Leading Change (M.A.), I also advise students on their master's theses and undergraduate senior projects, engaging with the academic research, contextual realities and students’ lives, work, and ministries.Continue reading
A letter from Tim and Gloria Wheeler serving in Honduras
December 2014 - Hope—Living Into the Future
The new year brings a new opportunity and new hope for achievement, for throwing away the old and reaching toward our goals for a better life. Our religion tells us to live in a new way, with new relationships based on love and by doing this to make the world new. This sounds wonderful, but can this really become reality, especially if you are poor with little education and a family to feed? Gloria wrote the story that follows about her friend, Maria.
Maria got up one morning very happy and full of dreams because it was the day that she would start learning something new. For the first time she was going to learn how to use a sewing machine. As soon as she started walking from her community of Cerro Azul, a small community in the district of Trinidad, Honduras, she started to feel worried. “What will happen if she could not learn?” she thought, “I don’t know how to read and write and if I really can’t learn because of that…hmmm...” She was sure that there were more women in the workshop. She went into the room and went up to the instructor. She told him who she was and that she could not read and write. Now she knew why she had been so nervous as she had walked from her village—this had happened to her before; she had been turned away because of not being able to read and write. People like her hadn’t had all of the opportunities that she hoped to give her children. In some ways the miracle was that she was present that day and was trying to reach past the untouchable, reaching into the unknown, and dreaming of something better.Continue reading
A letter from César Carhuachín serving in Colombia
November 2014 - Hoping, Praying for Peace
Hello friends and partners of the God's mission in Colombia:
Greetings from Barranquilla!
Life here in Colombia is hopeful. The Peace Conversation between the government and guerrillas (FARC—Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is prospering. As of today, there are some agreements that include issues such as: (1) A Comprehensive Rural Reform; (2) Program Development with a Territorial Approach; and (3) A National Plan for Comprehensive Rural Reform. This 20-page document is the first draft of a Peace Document. Our partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (PCC), is praying for these conversations and I invite you to pray together with us for peace in Colombia. We know that peace is much more than a single political agreement, but it is the beginning of a new socio-political context for Colombia and our church partner. And this is hopeful for all, and particularly for those who never have lived a time without guerrilla violence.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado serving in Mexico
November 2014 - Guillermina's Story
“Hey Marcos, she’s from South Carolina!”
Adrian Gonzalez, director of customer relations, pulled on my shoulder and announced excitedly the news that another one of my “paisanos” was less than seven feet away from me. We were both in the Migrant Resource Center, yet we were miles apart in the reasons for finding ourselves at the center.
I turned and saw a woman not too much younger than me standing in dark clothes and a baseball cap shading a hint of deep sadness in her face.
“Buenos dias! Me llamo Marcos, como se llama Ud.?” I asked, assuming that this fellow Sandlapper’s first language was Spanish.
“My name is Guillermina,” she responded in perfect English.
Not 15 minutes before, Guillermina and I had been less than seven feet apart but did not yet know each other’s name, much less that we shared a common connection to and love for South Carolina.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Wright serving in Honduras
November 2014 - Relationships Turned Upside Down
During the first week of October I had the privilege of serving a delicious hot lunch to men, women, and some families who are homeless and hungry, alongside several of my young friends of the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. It was a beautiful, well organized, and thoughtful ministry that sought to lift up the dignity and image of God in everyone regardless of the circumstances in which they found themselves. For young Honduran Christians whose material circumstances were often very difficult, serving others in need touched them deeply.
But the thing that made this experience truly remarkable was that the young Hondurans were serving alongside their young North American friends from Westminster Presbyterian Church, not in urban Tegucigalpa, but in urban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Missional relationships had been turned upside down this time. Hondurans were spreading the Good News in word and deed in the United States.Continue reading
A letter from Barbara Nagy serving in Malawi
November 18, 2014 - Saturday at Nkhoma
It is 6 am on Saturday morning, and although power and water have been off intermittently for many days, we are sitting on our porch enjoying a God-created breeze, which defies human interference. There is a steady procession of people coming with various requests, mostly for school fees since we have reached the time of the school year when students are sent away if their first-term fees have not been paid.
Quite a number of people have already run out of food, even though the next harvest is five months away, because they have sold some of their maize to cover other essentials. School fees and costs for food and fuel have all risen dramatically in Malawi due to the severe financial constraints imposed by government corruption scandals, but the selling price of maize in the villages tends to lag far behind inflation. Those convicted in the scandal have bilked billions of kwacha (currency) from Malawi’s government, crippling hospitals, schools, civil services, and every aspect of society, yet they have been given light sentences such as three years in prison. Newspaper editorials have called for the culprits (such as are found) to be tried for crimes against humanity because of the damage that has been dealt to the health care system, with even referral hospitals running out of medicines, water, and other essential supplies. Christian hospitals have been singled out as not eligible to hire any new staff for the indefinite future, which poses an extreme burden for Christian health facilities across the country, which are predominantly serving the poor.Continue reading
A letter from Al Smith serving in Germany/Russia
November 19, 2014 - A Visit to Russia—and No Bears
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I WENT TO RUSSIA AND SAW VARIOUS ANIMALS, BUT … NO BEARS
Some seasons of the year are inextricably linked in our minds with the activities we associate with them: Christmas comes in December, the Kentucky Derby on the first weekend in May, the Super Bowl in early February. For the past nine years early November has been associated in my mind with the Roma Leadership Conference in Russia. I wasn’t there for the first conference, but, except for the year we were on Interpretation Assignment in the States, I have been at every conference since. We used to move the conference from one city to another, but we have long since settled on Kursk because of the availability of meeting space and lodgings at the seminary there.
This year’s conference took place November 7-9. My friend and colleague Andrey Beskorovainiy asked that I arrive in Kursk by November 2 so we could take care of some of the organizational details ahead of time. Things are a bit complicated for Andrey these days: he is taking care of his own congregation, working as a watchman part-time, coordinating Roma ministry over a wide territory, and doing all of the myriad of chores involved in running a small farming operation. Plus, he currently has a number of family members staying with him during the unrest in Ukraine.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Baker serving in Northern Ireland
November 2014 - Hugs, cake and an apology help restore relationships
There are hundreds of ways to engage in reconciliation. Sharing cake, hugs and an apology helped a lot on this occasion!
About six months ago I received a phone call from the minister of a rural congregation about 70 miles from Belfast. Four years earlier he had been in a “Handling Conflict in the Church” course I teach for final-year theological students. He wondered if I would do some general training with his elders on dealing constructively with conflict. We agreed on a date and place for a morning session. It was fairly easy to establish rapport, and there was good participation from the group. As the time was drawing to a close and I was asking what key points they would take away with them, one elder said, “Actually we do have a conflict affecting us now that we could do with help discussing.” I invited him to say more and he and others began to put me in the picture.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Collins in the U.S. (Regional Liaison for East Central Africa)
November 2014 - Transformation Through Agriculture
Dear Family and Friends,
We found Rev. Gertrude Banda out in the middle of the newly cleared 13-acre field at Chasefu Model Farm. The field, which just months before had been dense Zambian bush, was cleared by hand in the traditional Zambia fashion—men using machetes and axes to cut the trees and bushes and using oxen to drag the heavy trunks and branches so they could be stacked for burning. In all honesty the field was not that much to look at—just a big open space. But for the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Zambia (CCAP Zambia) that field represented the Church leaders’ dreams of addressing the poverty of rural pastors and subsistence farmers; it represented their hope of improving life for thousands of Zambians.
The situation for rural pastors and subsistence farmers is grim; 65 percent of Zambians survive through subsistence farming on plots of land an acre or less. 70 percent of subsistence farmers are women and many of them are household heads. Maize is the staple crop and it depends on rain for a good harvest. In 2004, 75 percent of small-scale farming households had average annual incomes of about USD 219, with an average household size of 6.6.Continue reading
A letter from Bernie Adeney-Risakotta serving in Indonesia
November 2014 - Back to Work
Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
What is it like to come back to work in Indonesia after a glorious year in Boston? Frankly speaking, I was worried. Boston was like a dream. We loved it. In November 2013 we had a horrific accident and Farsijana had a long period of recovery from two fractured vertebrae, but even that gave us extra freedom to slow down and heal our souls as well as our bodies. Farsijana healed beautifully and created deep meaning and art out of her suffering. But I wondered how we would adjust to going back to “normal” work in Indonesia.
We needn’t have worried. As we stepped off the airplane and felt the humid heat sweep over us, we knew we were home. The lush green tropics, soaring volcanoes, beautiful beaches, ringing calls to prayer, smells of spicy sweet food, and the roar of kamikaze students on their motorbikes are part of our soul. We call our house Pondok Tali Rasa. That means a home where people are woven together in their “rasa” (feeling, thought, taste and senses). It has been a place of grace, where Muslims and Christians from areas of violent conflict have found peace and reconciliation. Our home became a community center for empowering women and children, promoting art and creativity, serving the basic needs of hundreds of victims of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and fostering deep discussion between people of different cultures and religions about the problems facing Indonesian society.
A letter from Eric and Becky Hinderliter serving in Lithuania
Advent 2014 - Grace Moments
“Išganytojau tauta” "Savior of the Nations, Come"
Prakartėlė naktyje Brightly does your manger shine
Skleidžia šviesą tamsoje. Glorious is its light divine.
Jau Tamsos aš nebijau, Let not sin o’er cloud this light;
Nes tikėjima gavau. Ever be our faith thus bright.
Greetings from Klaipeda, Lithuania.
We have reached the darkest time of the year. Less than seven hours of light daily. On some days the sun hardly shines at all. Advent can be a dark time.
In this darkness we wonder how we are doing. We are closing in on 14 years here as mission co-workers for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). As we think of the gift we have been given through this call by God and affirmation by the church that has sent us, we can only be overflowing with gratitude. Years ago, when we were in Louisville at the national offices of World Mission, we were asked at the end of the mission appointment process how we felt. We could only respond about how we felt with one word: “Redeemed!”Continue reading
A letter from John and Gwen Haspels in South Africa
December 2014 - Friends and Shareholders
“Joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified YOU to SHARE
in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Col. 1:12).
Dear Friends and Shareholders,
On behalf of the Suri Church we want to take this opportunity at the end of 2014 to "JOYFULLY THANK" each of you for your partnership with us during the last 22 years. The growing, thriving Suri Church is your inheritance. This year has seen the birth of five new worshiping communities with more than 500 baptisms. Bible translation and Suri literacy continue despite setbacks. Suri Baale literacy has begun and hopefully Bible translation in the near future.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.